The Corn Queen
It's eighty-seven degrees, and the parade has barely started. Just after eleven o'clock, and here you are, your armpits already damp and all you're doing is sitting and waving and smiling. You are the Corn Queen, as evidenced by the dress - a bright yellow sequined top, very niblet-like, and long, flowing green husks, with a pale blond capelet that matches your hair perfectly - and crown you are wearing, seated on the back of Chris Henderson's dad's flatbed truck converted via papier mache, streamers, paint and moxie into a rather kick-ass float, mid-position in the Corn Festival Parade now wending its way straight down Kankakee Avenue in downtown Winthrop, Iowa, your hometown, seemingly all its citizens lining the storefronts to wave as you go by.
As Saturdays go, it beats most. You probably would have just spent the day with Cassie and Erica, shopping for swimsuits and hoping to show them off at the Elks Club pool later. And speaking of the Elks Club, that's them behind you, marching in ragged step to the faint strains of the Winthrop High marching band several groups ahead, the band in which your brother "plays" the clarinet.
Being Corn Queen is a big deal, you know that. You get a scholarship, even though you're only sixteen; you get to be in parades all over Wexford County and maybe even Polk; you get to be there if they ever open a new library or senior center or daycare or something, maybe you get to hold one end of a huge scissors with the mayor and cut a ribbon, but you're not sure. The responsibilities of Corn Royalty have slipped your mind in this heat.
The fact that you have to pee is not helping anything. The parade is slow. Fucking slow, although a Corn Queen should refrain from profanity. You sit with your husked legs together, ankles crossed, smiling and waving, recognizing friends from school, neighbors, the bag boy at the Farm Exchange. A dull throb in your lower abdomen drags your smile down a fraction of a millimeter. The parade is not going to stop so you can duck into the Tastee Freeze.
A glance, however futile and torturous, at said Tastee Freeze reveals Adam Lindberg standing next to his cousin Tanner and some girl. Adam Lindberg. Who you asked to Tolo and then after, in the back seat of his car, fooled around with and are now pretty damn certain, excusing the unroyal profanity, that you are, in fact, pregnant. You missed last month, and this month's should have been riding the float with you like a red ear of maize. But you missed this month too. And there is Adam Lindberg and some girl. They're not even looking as you glide by on the float, don't even notice you waving at them, you crossing your legs under the green husks, you squeezing yourself tightly shut.
How did you get into this mess? It hadn't lasted very long, a few minutes, and Adam had seemed as surprised and disappointed as you did. But, if your grandmother were here, and praise god she isn't, she'd have said it only takes but the once. If you're honest with yourself, you'd at least liked to have cum. Not meant to be, and so here you are, a Corn Queen with an heir already cooking.
The Corn Festival Committee will, of course, shit when they find out, and Melissa Swanson will probably have to take over for you. There she is, seated in front of you on a little stool, along with the other Corn Princess, Holly Jorgensen, who you know for a fact gave Tanner Lindberg a handy in church. They're going to hell, you rightly suppose. Well, then, where does that leave you, Miss High-and-Mighty, your blessedly dead granny would say.
Jesus Christ, we're only at the Hawkeye Pub? That's not even halfway down the parade route. You're going to piss yourself, it's a real possibility. You cross your legs even tighter under the husks, forcing the grin wider and the waves more window-washy. Is the baby pressing on your bladder? Is it even able to move in there yet? You really should have paid more attention in human biology class, but the instant Mr. Kuiperfels said the word "vagina" you tuned out. The word "womb" makes you feel nauseous just reading it.
Your tummy's going to be big as a bowling ball come September when school starts, y'know. What, do you think Adam is going to marry you? Mrs. Sasha Lindberg? Not likely. You certainly wish the Winthrop High marching band would give it a fucking rest already, as you have developed a splitting headache. And your shoulder is hurting from holding your waving arm up so long. Time to switch and air out this other pit.
The parade passes the halfway point, the old Gulf station that's now an antique store. You feel completely full of liquid, like your amniotic fluid has overspilled its banks - like the river did last fall - and you're just a blond, perky sloshing bag of wet. You smile, you clench yourself.
A man steps out from the awning of the old gas station, emerging from the shade that hid him into the full blaze of the bright Iowa day. It is your dad. He is smiling and clapping his hands over his head and hooting and calling your name so loud you can hear it over the crashing cymbals and horns of "Oops I Did It Again". You can't help yourself; you stand up and wave with both arms high. The crowd on either side of Kankakee Avenue erupts into applause.
You are pregnant. Jesus. You only threw up once, you remember, and you chalked it up to the potato salad at McPheer's. Fucking Adam Lindberg. Fucking having to pee. What are you going to do, you ask yourself, waving and smiling, waving and wondering, can they see me crying.